29 September 2009

Sex with a tummy

It’s your first pregnancy, and you want to know if it's safe to continue having sex. Here are a list of questions and answers that simplify the intimacy issue.

It’s your first pregnancy, and you’re getting advice on everything from cravings to delivery. But what about sex? Here are a list of questions and answers that will simplify the intimacy issue.

Every pregnant woman carries, along with her belly, a heavy set of rules. Yes to folic acid, no to sushi. Yes to regular gynaecological visits, no to sleeping on her back... but what do the fundis say about fun in bed?

Is sex still on the table?
Of course! As long as your pregnancy progresses normally, you can experiment with how much action your mattress can stand. Just remember though, you might not always feel like it. The list of reasons is long... hormone fluctuations, tiredness and nausea can eat away at your libido, but during the second trimester, the increased blood flow to your sexual organs and breasts can reawaken that desire. By trimester three, you may not be as keen - thanks to weight gain, back pain and all manner of other ‘joys’ you may experience during this time.

And if I don’t want to?
This is completely understandable and there’s more to a sexual relationship than just sex. Share your needs and worries with your mate in a loving way. Try cuddling, kissing or massaging one another. It is important to never stop touching each other.

When should I be careful?
Your gynaecologist will recommend that you avoid sex if you run the risk of giving premature birth, experience unexplained bleeding, leak amniotic fluid, your cervix begins to dilate or your placenta blocks, or partially blocks, your cervical opening (placenta previa).

What if I’m not allowed to?
You will probably experience many question marks during your pregnancy. Sometimes you may wonder exactly what a book or expert means. If your gynaecologist recommends that you don’t have sex, ask exactly what is meant by this. Does it mean no penetrative sex? Or no orgasms? And if so, for how long? A woman who experiences light bleeding during her first trimester may be advised to avoid both sex and orgasms for a week after the last bleeding episode.

Can sex lead to a miscarriage?
No. If you don’t have any pain, and yours isn’t a high-risk pregnancy, sex is completely safe. Many pregnant couples abstain from sex because they’re scared of having a miscarriage, but rest assured that early miscarriage is usually a result of chromosomal abnormalities. There is nothing you can do to prevent this.

Is oral sex allowed?
Go ahead. As long as you do like every other normal couple, there should be no problem. Remember though that, when performing oral sex, your mate should avoid blowing air into the vagina. A trapped air bubble can block a blood vessel which could have life-threatening consequences for you and your baby.

Knock, knock?
Not at all. Your baby is protected by the amniotic fluid in your uterus, and also by a mucous ‘plug’ that blocks the cervix during most of your pregnancy. Sex shouldn’t affect your baby at all. Many men are scared that the baby will be able to feel the penis during pregnancy, and it’s often frustrated women who try and convince their husbands to have sex! A baby will feel that there is movement when you enjoy sex, but believe us — baby won’t know that it’s sex.

Are there good positions for yummy tummies?
Most positions work during pregnancy, though the secret is experimenting to find which is the most comfortable. As your stomach grows, the missionary position will become more and more uncomfortable. The ‘spoons’ position is perfect for pregnant women. Both partners should lie on their side, with hubby behind you — this way your stomach doesn’t get in the way. Avoid positions which require you to lie on your back, but let pleasure and comfort guide you.

Any orgasms for yummy mummies?
Some women become orgasmic for the first time during pregnancy because of the increase of fluids in this area, which makes the clitoris and vagina more sensitive. Other women experience multiple orgasms for the first time.

Orgasms are good for you and your baby. If you have an orgasm, the baby isn’t aware of what you are doing, but it will experience the euphoric rush which you experience. Unfortunately, there are women that don’t feel the same degree of release after an orgasm during pregnancy as they usually would, and those that report feeling sexually frustrated despite multiple orgasms.

Can orgasms assist labour?
Orgasms can cause contractions of the womb, but this is different to labour pains. If you have a normal pregnancy, orgasms with or without sex won’t increase your chances of a premature birth.

According to medical experts, there is a chemical substance in semen that can soften the cervix and assist with the birth process, but sex won’t actually cause labour, and although semen can contribute to the labour process, it cannot start it. If you start to experience contractions, speak to your gynaecologist.

What happens after baby’s birth?
Your body needs time to recover, and most medical experts recommend that you avoid sex for the first six weeks after giving birth. This ensures ample time for your cervix to close, and any scrapes or episiotomy wounds to heal. If you are too tired or sore to even think of sex, ensure that you stay intimate in other ways such as calling each other on the phone, e-mailing each other or ‘sms’ing each other. Set aside a few moments each evening before you go to bed to talk and, when you decide to try again, take things slowly.

What if hubby refuses?
There are cases where a man’s loss of libido is a challenge. Usually, this is caused by tiredness or the fact that he needs to get used to his new role as a father, but it may be deeper than this.

Some men struggle to see their wives as lovers because they have been slightly traumatised by their partner’s difficult vaginal birth and the pain that she had to go through. Speak to each other about this, and stay in physical contact with one another. Rest assured, your sex life will return to normal, though it may take time and effort.

Sources: Your Pregnancy Week by Week, by Lesley Regan;;

(This is an edited version of a story that originally appeared in INTIMACY magazine, Spring 2009.)


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